Pints poured and hair trimmed again as lockdown eased
Pints have been poured, couples have tied the knot and barbers have opened for the first time in months after coronavirus restrictions were eased across England.
A major easing of lockdown measures has seen pubs, restaurants, bars, hair salons and cinemas able to open their doors again under modified social distancing restrictions.
Bar Sport in Cannock was among the first bars to reopen on Saturday, offering breakfast and beers from 8am with American flags decking out the bar to celebrate Independence Day.
The venue has screens to protect staff, designated ordering points at the bar and several hand sanitiser stations.
Owner Scott Murray said: “It’s all been very civilised. Everyone is keeping their distance and there’s been nice crowds and atmosphere in the pub.”
Meanwhile over in Birmingham city centre, builders queued to get their first draught pint at the Briar Rose Wetherspoons on Bennetts Hill.
Ben Clark, 33, a builder from Newcastle, was first in line in the socially-distanced queue after finishing a night shift.
Many pubs, but not Wetherspoons, are operating on a reservation-only basis to manage numbers as customers return.
Business partners Kerry Brummell and Neil Taylor, who run The Fox at Shipley, near Wolverhampton, were among those celebrating seeing a steady flow of business on Saturday.
Kerry, aged 52 years old, said: “It has been quite steady, but although we have been here for 14 years, it is like the start of a new job – into the unknown.
"It was very strange to reopen – we were all very apprehensive on the morning but it went very, very well. Customers have been really happy and the staff have too.”
But not all of those allowed to open chose to do so.
Despite pleas from ministers for people to make the most of their new freedoms and inject some money into the economy, some are still erring on the side of caution and many venues remain closed.
The national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) believes as many as half of pubs stayed shuttered on Saturday.
Nik Antona said: “I think it’s going to be difficult for pubs.
“They are opening up under uncertain circumstances. They don’t know if they’re going to get their customers back.”
West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson welcomed the eased restrictions in the hope that it will reduce the amount of illegal gatherings such as raves, but Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said officers were "praying for rain".
He said that while he thought people would “use good sense”, it was “very bad” timing by the Government to pick a Saturday night.
Salons and weddings back
Hairdressers across the West Midlands were busy throughout Saturday and are expected to stay the same for several weeks as people rush to trim their lockdown locks.
The desire to get a fresh haircut was on display at Man Cave in Cannock on Saturday, where a long socially-distanced queue snaked around Market Place.
Vaal Salon – part of the Vaal and Vaal business – also reopened to help trim people's hair in Wolverhampton.
Harper Gill, CEO of Vaal & Vaal: “The last few months has shed a light on the importance of looking after ourselves and our wellbeing, and so it was with great pleasure that we opened our doors again after three months.
"Whilst we have been inundated with bookings and have a full calendar for weeks, we have been sure to spend extra time on each service – not just from a health and safety perspective, but also to show our appreciation to our clients for standing by us in this uncertain period for all businesses."
In Birmingham, Urban Roots in the city centre was full as soon as it opened with hairdressers wearing face shields to protect against coronavirus.
One of the first people in the country to visit a newly-reopened hair salon said it was nice to feel “like normal” again.
Sandra Jacobs was among the first people through the door at Tusk Hair in Camden on Friday night when the north London business opened its doors at midnight.
There were masks, aprons and faceshields aplenty at the salon, but Ms Jacobs described the trip as “such a relief, I can’t tell you”.
Among the first couples to be married were Tracie Kenny and Neal Arden who tied the knot at the Best Western Hotel in Ironbridge.
Weddings are now able to take place, with a maximum limit of 30 guests, but social distancing meant bride Tracie had to show her parents her wedding ring through the hotel window.
Meanwhile in Cheshire two key workers got married just moments after the restrictions lifted.
Care home worker Jennifer Wilson and security guard Louise Arnold, both 22, married at the Peace Garden Pergola in the grounds of Runcorn Town Hall in what was thought to be the first wedding after the updated Covid-19 guidelines came into force.
Ms Wilson said: “Last week the registry office rang and asked if we wanted to be the first couple in the UK to marry after lockdown, and we just said yes.
"We both work nights normally, so the time suited us.”
Social distance reminder
Despite the celebrations, ministers have urged the public not to get carried away.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Daily Mail that people were entitled to enjoy themselves at pubs but added: “You could end up behind bars if you break the law.”
He also said he would not “shirk” from shutting pubs and restaurants again, and imposing local lockdowns if needed.
He said: “I’m no killjoy, but the virus can still kill. I don’t want to see bars and pubs have to close again. I love going to the pub and enjoy a pint or two.”
However chancellor Rishi Sunak claimed the public needs to “eat out to help out”.
He explained on Saturday: “The hospitality sector is a vital part of our economy and crucial to people’s livelihoods – Britain’s pubs and bars alone employ almost half a million people – which is why it’s such good news that so many people are able to return to work this weekend, helping us all to enjoy summer safely.
He made the comments as he visited The Bell & Crown in Chiswick, west London – a pub run by brewers Fullers, who only opened 27 of their 215 own-managed venues on Saturday.
On Friday, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the pandemic “is a long way from gone” as he urged the public to follow social-distancing rules as guidance is eased.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, also warned of the danger of the “superspreading” of Covid-19 occurring in pubs.
At a Downing Street press conference, Prof Whitty said: “None of us believe, and I’m sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it.
“There’s no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together, that’s a great thing to do socially but it’s also a great thing from the virus’s point of view.
“Therefore, we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs.”
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